by David Salman

Walking out in my yard the other afternoon, I was staring at the ground looking a small plant when a movement caught my eye. As I looked closer I came to realize it was something completely unexpected and intriguing; the sight of a native bee, hard at work building her burrow. The natural order of the terrestrial world depends on plants to recharge our air by converting carbon dioxide into oxygen and feeding the herbivores (plant eating animals) upon which the higher food chain depends. So the role of the world’s pollinators who help plants create their seeds is crucial to life on this plant. As gardeners we can play a very important role in helping to feed and provide habitat for our pollinators. One garden at a time becomes millions of gardens that support essential pollinators. Bees are a major factor in the pollinating equation who, along with bats, hummingbirds, flies, moths, butterflies, wasps and many other creatures, help plants in nature and in our gardens, fields and orchards set fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. We have been sobered by the news about struggling honey bee populations in North America and Europe. So we need to appreciate the roll some 3,000 species of non-honey bees, our native bees and bumblebees, have in providing for pollination when the honey bees populations are decreasing and stressed. As with anything in nature, diversity is the name of the game and 3,000 species of native bees compose a formidable “workforce”. So getting back to my original story; I was thrilled to see an industrious native bee (who as a group are solitary insects that nest primarily in the ground) hard at work in the soft ground making a nest to raise her young. I had never seen a burrowing native bee at work in the ground. And it made me feel good and hopeful that this bee’s offspring would be pollinating my garden and fruit trees next spring.